Board fundraising: Ask people to act on their values

When I read Kay Grace’s The Ultimate Board Member’s Book, I was reminded of some very gratifying as well as excruciating moments in my service as a nonprofit board member. An example of the less than stellar was, you guessed it, board fundraising. I happened to be on the receiving end of the ask as a board member and was excited to make my commitment. I knew it would make for easier solicitations in the community if I could demonstrate that my personal gift had already been pledged.

I remember the executive director asked me for a stretch gift (stretch for me anyway). The ask was by phone and felt, well, phony. Without the board chair present and without looking into the eyes of the asker to whom my hard-earned dollars would be going, I felt deflated and unappreciated. As soon as I said “yes,” the phone call was quickly ended and she checked me off the list. Or so it seemed. In the defense of this executive director, I’m sure she would have been horrified to know her ask left me feeling that way. Fortunately, for other CEOs and executive directors, Grace’s book addresses a useful process for going about development, fundraising and stewardship of the board and community. I say these three words because Grace has a specific reason for separating each function. I’ve excerpted my interview with Kay below which elaborates on the topic–

CausePlanet: Your section on philanthropy, development and fundraising is excellent, and I like how you break down each component so that everyone has a role to play.

Kay Sprinkel Grace: In my longer work, Beyond Fundraising, I go into detail on this and am happy to do it here.

Imagine three (3) concentric “eggs” or ovals. The largest, which surrounds the two smaller ovals, is philanthropy. Philanthropy is all voluntary action for the public good (Payton, 1989) and includes giving, asking, joining and serving (and for board members, it is NOT multiple choice!). We know through research and experience that all philanthropy is based in values: people and institutions do not give to, ask for, join or serve organizations whose values they don’t share. So, it is critical to create a “culture of philanthropy” in an organization based on the values of the organization.

The second oval is development, which is the process by which we get to know people and institutions and uncover the values we share with them. Development, or relationship building, is the most important role for a board member. It requires using the anatomical ratio of two ears: one mouth–listening more than we speak. If all board members were committed to developing relationships, fundraising would not be a challenge.

The smallest of the ovals is fundraising, which I define as “giving people opportunities to act on their values.” When we know what values donors share with us (and we with them), our conversation around the ask is made easy: “You and I both care deeply about continuing independent living for seniors as long as possible to ensure their sense of dignity. We have been successful at keeping our seniors at home because of the investment of people like you. As we look to the aging of America and the growing number of seniors in our community, we see the need for our services increasing. This year, will you consider increasing your investment in these programs that we both care so deeply about?”

See also:

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

Beyond Fundraising

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